Muzaffarnagar, India – It has been three weeks since two men accused of gang-raping a woman in 2013 were jailed for 20 years – a rare sentencing for sexual assault during a communal riot in India.
Congratulatory calls to celebrate the courage and requests to interview the rape survivor, 35-year-old Aafreen*, have ebbed since. Worse, her decade-long fight for justice – that should have brought her a sense of closure – is not over yet.
“Someone let my name slip out while talking about me here in Muzaffarnagar. So people who had no idea this was my case got to know,” Aafreen told Al Jazeera, adding that she feels more vulnerable than before.
“People from the village and other parts of Muzaffarnagar kept calling my husband and asking him why he did not tell them it was his wife’s case,” she said.
Saif*, her 37-year-old husband, has kept his phone on silent mode for a few days now.
Aafreen was among at least seven women who alleged they were raped during the riots in Muzaffarnagar, a district in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, in 2013.
The violence began on August 27, 2013 after a 29-year-old Muslim man was stabbed to death over allegations of harassing a Hindu girl. Minutes later, the two men who stabbed the Muslim man were caught by a mob and beaten to death.
The incident triggered large-scale rioting between Hindus and Muslims for two weeks and even spread to the neighbouring Shamli district. More than 60 people – most of them Muslims – were killed and nearly 60,000 displaced from their ancestral homes. Rights groups say the number of dead was higher…